About Emotional Mastery

5 ideas from psychology on how to be likeable

One of the most confusing ideas for people is how to be themselves but also how to be likeable in the process. In this article, I show you how to be authentic but likeable.

Ed Latimore, author, blogger, and retired pro boxer
Ed Latimore Author, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

Something that’s difficult for people to do is be their authentic selves, but also be likeable in the process.

The popular idea that most people subscribe to is that if you’re being true to yourself, then you will automatically make enemies because it’s impossible to be liked by everyone.

Just because everyone won’t like you doesn’t mean that you need to go out of your way to make it easy for them to dislike you. Also, there is a tremendous benefit to being likeable.

People go out of their way to help you when they you like you. You’ll get more opportunities and offers when people like you. There is absolutely no downside to being likeable.

Most people scoff at the idea of going out of their way to be liked because they don’t understand how to be likeable while also staying true to themselves. Even if they recognize that there are benefits to being liked, they feel like it’ll cause them to sell out to their true selves.

Well this just isn’t true.

Never underestimate the power of being likeable. That’s not the first time I’ve tweeted out that idea and every time I do, I get a flood of people asking me how to go about increasing their likeability. Furthermore, because of the title of my book, they ask me how to be more likeable while simultaneously not caring what other people think.

That’s a good question and today, you’ll finally get your answer.

I believe that after reading what I have to say on the subject of being likeable, you’ll be able to make yourself a more likeable character, regardless of your position in life. Most importantly, you’ll be able to do it without selling out.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to be a likeable person while still being authentic. I promise that you won’t have to do anything that you don’t normally do, act differently than what’s most comfortable, or be someone that you don’t want to be.

1) Make people feel understood and acknowledged

When people feel like you understand how they see the world, they’re more receptive to you. You don’t have to necessarily agree or empathize with their perspective, but you need to show that you actually get their perspective is.

You can’t ever come out and say, “I understand and acknowledge your perspective” or any variation of that. That feels disingenuous, unremarkable, and outright false. There are two simple ways to demonstrate that you understand someone’s perspective and acknowledge it.

Repeat and reword what someone says

The idea is that while in conversation, you say back to them what they just said, but in your own way with your own words. To do this effectively, you have to stop another bad conversation habit: thinking about your response to the other person’s point before they’ve even finished making it.

However, after a person finishes telling their story or expressing their point of view, then you take a moment and begin to reword what they said. You’re not trying to interpret or argue, but simply filter their ideas though your vocabulary. You’re not repeating the words back to the person verbatim, but you are repeating the idea back the general idea.

Inevitably, you’ll use some of the same words as them and this alright. This makes people like you because it makes them feel like you’re a familiar presence in their world. Humans are more fond of things that are familiar and similar, so the more familiar and similar you can appear in both perspective and words used, the more likeable you become.

This is called “The Chameleon Effect” and it has been heavily studied. The echo effect has been shown to:

This is very powerful for showing that you get a person’s perspective, and in doing so it makes you more likeable. The way is through your actions. The next step takes this idea a step further.

Sympathize to empathize

What’s the difference between sympathy and empathy?

Empathy is experiencing someone else’s emotions. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone’s plight or position. The end goal is not to feel sympathy. Sympathy is part of a process that leads to you feeling empathetic and from a position of empathy, you can make a person feel like their position is both understood and acknowledged.

I use this a lot when dealing with people who have authority or are in the service industry. I imagine how difficult their day has been dealing with other subordinates or customers. In feeling bad for them, I can then try to imagine what it felt like to experience that and in doing, do what I can to make their job easier.

The key to this is understanding everyone has something or someone that distress them.

For example, the best way to get out of a being pulled over by the police is to be respectful and display manners. It’s amazing how many times saying I’ve gotten out of traffic situations where I was definitely in the wrong by addressing them as sir and ma’am with a non-aggressive tone.

Yes, even law enforcement can be swayed by a likeable person.

This strategy also works in customer service. This makes you someone people who like because most people have behaved badly or treated them poorly. Your approach not only makes you stand out, it makes them want to treat you favorably. When people want to treat you favorably, it makes them want to like you more.

[Tactical side note: younger people in customer service roles are not always fans of the “sir” and “ma’am” designations, but a non-aggressive tone goes a long way. Also, make sure you say “thanks” or “thank you” any time they help you with something.]

2) Treating people with respect makes you more likeable

What is respect?

“Respect” is the consideration of the effect that your thoughts, words, and actions have on a person. The higher the level of respect you have for someone:

  • The more you consider the impact of your interactions with them
  • The better you feel about the impact of their actions (on yourself or the world)
  • Some combination of the previous two

The most important thing to realize about respect is this: you don’t have to like someone to respect them, but respecting them increases the chances that they’ll like you—and there is no downside to being someone who is likeable.

Treating someone with respect is nothing more than considering the effect that your words and actions will have on them—and behaving accordingly. This is something that anyone in any position can do.

You don’t need to change your fundamental personality or kiss ass to be likeable. You just need to exercise a little empathy and respect in how you communicate.

The power of good manners

the power of being likeable by saying thanks

The power of saying ‘thank you’ is supremely underrated.

Basic respect is heavily intertwined with the display of good manners. Good manners or “etiquette” are the polite and proper ways to behave in public. When you follow a behavior standard that forces you to treat your fellow humans better, it makes it a lot easier to behave respectfully towards other people.

When you behave respectfully towards others and treat them with good manners, then you become someone very difficult to dislike.

3) Have personal standards

When you have a set of personal standards, you accomplish two important things with a singular action.

  1. You eliminate many people who might force you to act in a way that makes you unlikeable. Adhering to personal standards for how you treat others, yourself, and your surroundings will automatically protect you from many destructive influences.
  2. You make it easier to like yourself, thus making it easier for other people to like you. When you eliminate people and avoid situations that don’t live up to the standards you’ve set for yourself, you’re also getting rid of influences that ruin your behavior.

However, a major part of following this point is that you have to enforce your personal standards when they’re breached.

We like people we can trust and one of the fastest ways to indicate that you can be trusted is consistency in thought, word, and deed. If you claim to have a standard for the people that you let into your life, then there has to be a response when these standards are violated.

When you stick by your personal standards, you make yourself someone easy to trust and respect. This makes it much easier for them to like you.

4) Learn how to have a conversation

Having a good conversation for people is difficult because people don’t understand the purpose of a conversation with others.

The goal of a conversation isn’t to:

  • Make your point. That’s a lecture.
  • Question the person. That’s an interrogation.
  • Respond to every point. That’s a debate.

The goal of conversation is to create a moment of familiarity between two people using the spoken word. This is not just a technique but a general mindset that will change how you communicate and how people relate to you.

Your goal, when interacting with another person, is to become familiar to them. To learn about them while giving them the space to share, but also be able to do so without explicitly asking. It requires listening to a high degree because the most valuable pieces of information about a person are rarely discovered via direct questioning.

When you’re able to extract information from a person and say it back to them in your own words, you demonstrate that you understand them by acknowledging that which they haven’t even said.

This makes it easier for people to trust and like you.

5) Ask people for advice

The difference between charm and charisma is that charm makes people you like you, but charisma makes people want you to like them. In other words, charm is something that you to do elicit good feelings. Charisma is a quality that makes people try to elicit those same good feelings out of you.

This a key point to why asking for advice works so well.

People want to feel revered and respected. We like people who can generate these feelings within us and one of the best ways to do that is ask for someone’s knowledge or perspective. Once you do that, they naturally will want to do a good job by impressing you.

They aren’t consciously thinking about impressing you. They’re just trying to answer your question to the best of their ability. Once they do that, then you demonstrate how much it’s helped you, but not just in a superficial way.

Either show how you used it to solve the problem or explain how you never thought of the situation like that before they gave you that advice.

All people are looking for is confirmation that they were helpful and didn’t waste their time. Giving them this is likely to make you very likeable.

Recap of 5 basic tips to make you more likeable

  1. Make people feel understood
  2. Treat people with respect
  3. Have personal standards
  4. Learn how to have a conversation
  5. Take advice

Following these five things will make it easy for other people to like you. At the very least, it’s going to make it very difficult for people to dislike you.

Remember: there is no disadvantage to be likeable and no advantage to being unlikeable.

The rest is up to you.

Ed Latimore, author, blogger, and retired pro boxer
Ed Latimore Author, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

Further Reading

The Cure For Hate: Best quotes and big ideas
5 life-changing lessons I learned growing up in the projects
6 harsh truths your parents never told you
How to overcome fear: 7 lessons from boxing